With the news that Cliff Lee had been placed on waivers, many, myself included, had a brief moment of panic. The word waivers comes with a negative connotation and, in many cases in sports, signals the end of a player’s run with their team.
Baseball works a little differently.
Most fans know that after the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline, players must clear waivers before they can be traded (this is how the Phillies acquired Matt Stairs). This is so all teams are given a fair chance to claim a player and down-and-out teams are prevented from selling off players at the last minute. That part is widely known and understood. But, what is not as well known and certainly not as well publicized is that, at some point each August, almost every player in baseball is placed on waivers as a matter of procedure. Teams can pull a player off waivers if he’s claimed, so there’s really no risk in putting a player on the wire. It’s mostly just part of a behind-the-scenes poker game that we don’t get to witness. As a result, when news that Lee was placed on waivers broke this afternoon, the knee-jerk reaction for many was one of surprise. Usually, the names of those players aren’t disclosed, so we don’t think or talk about it (Jayson Stark and Danny Knobler have done a nice job of explaining the process in seasons past).
And after hearing Ruben Amaro say in multiple interviews that the Phillies had no interest in moving Lee, learning that he is on waivers raises an eyebrow or two, because, if he clears, the Phils will have the option of trading him again.
It was widely reported that working out a trade for Lee in the short window leading up to the deadline was a near impossibility considering the amount of money Lee makes and his limited no-trade clause (there are only eight teams he can go to without approval). But, should he clear waivers (which he likely will), it will give the Phils and a team like, say, the Rangers more time to hammer out a deal. It’s probably still a long shot, but will be a possibility again.
Anyway, here are the best Twitter overreactions to the news… starting with mine.